The Challenges facing Gorran to change / By Kamal Comani  – Kurdish Policy Foundation

5-9-2014 – The Gorran Movement (The Change Movement) has spent four challengeable years as an opposition in Parliament, but success in the next four years for Gorran as a partner to the ruling party in the broad-based government will be a challenge.  The Transformation from an opposition party to a ruling force which shares power in government is an inevitable challenge that tests its capacity to run public institutions. The new phase of Gorran is to interpret the ideas, reform packages, and criticism into practical steps to be accountable for its policies.

Gorran has been a hope for thousands, in particular in the youth. Undoubtedly, Gorran voters want most of their hopes to be realized and they scrutinize Gorran’s every move. One of the main differences between Gorran’s voters and  those of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP led by Kurdistan’s incumbent president Masoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK led by ailing former Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, is that they went to the polls ballots conditionally; to see changes and reforms in the current government.

The socio-political structure of Gorran requires it to be more accountable to the public as the only source of its  legitimacy. Unlike the KDP and PUK, Gorran doesn’t own giant corporations to sustain it; its power comes from public support. Most of the followers of Gorran are middle and lower class voters as they seek justice through reforms in KRG institutions. These groups are affected by government actions the most. Therefore, any delay in reform or change in the favor of the public, may jeopardize Gorran’s popularity as well as the social stability of the region.

Gorran emerged in 2009 as an opposition movement when people’s anger against the ruling KDP and PUK had reached a peak. Nawshirwan Mustafa, a co-founder of PUK and a leading Kurdish politician and freedom fighter during Kurdish resistance in Iraq, took lead of the movement. Nawshirwan Mustafa seemed not to be involved in corruption, or abuse of power in his personal interests. Therefore, tens of Kurdish activists, intellectuals, journalists, writers joined Gorran. In the June 2009 general election in the Kurdistan Region, the Change Movement won 25 seats out of 111, and in last September’s Parliamentary Elections, Gorran was able to maintain this, securing 24 seats.

In the KRG’s current cabinet, Gorran is represented in a coalition government with 4 other political parties. Gorran’s share in the KRG cabinet is 4 ministries; Peshmerga, Finance, Trade and Industry and Religious Affairs. The position of speaker of Parliament also belongs to Gorran. Having said that, Gorran maintains some critical positions in the government body as well as the legislative branch. But two ministries are urgently requiring radical reforms; the Ministry of Peshmerga, and the Ministry of Finance.

The Ministry of Peshmerga

One of the most difficult tasks facing Gorran is Peshmerga Ministry. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Peshmerga is one of the most fragmented ministries in the Kurdistan Region due its division between the KDP and PUK. There are thousands of men and women who are members of political parties, registered under this ministry to get retirement benefits who they haven’t served as army members at all. The majority of Peshmerga forces are untrained and they lack of modern arms. Probably the most serious issue for the Ministry of Peshmerga is having Peshmerga forces which are not under Peshmerga Ministry command. Almost 70 percent of Peshmerga forces technically don’t report to the Minister of Peshmerga.

The Change Movement has already promised to meet people’s demands and one of the main demands is unifying Peshmerga forces and providing a better life for the Peshmerga. Some bet on the impossibility of Peshmerga unification as it has never been ruled under one command in the past. One of the reasons the KDP and PUK have not been successful in unifying the forces was the lack of trust and maintenance of the balance of power between the two. However, the trick with Gorran is that they can play a meddle role. If Gorran fails in unifying the Peshmerga, the hope of having a unified Kurdish force will disappear which may eventually cause instability in the region.

Since holding office in the ministry, Gorran has done thorough research and has found out that almost 400,000 people have been employed by and retired from the ministry, whereas only 40,000 of them are under the command of the Peshmerga.Gorran’s Minister is now focused on defeating ISIS, but it appears that once the threat of ISIS is eliminated, Gorran will bring all these issues to the attention of the KDP and PUK.

The Ministry of Finance

For the last 8 months, the KRG has been undergoing a severe financial crisis due to budget freeze from central government in Baghdad.  As a result the KRG has a $7 billion deficit that has caused a hardship on the people of Kurdistan. The delay of their monthly wages and has contributed to negative impacts on the market. In fact, people voted for Gorran in order to bring better economic opportunities, but now the KRG is experiencing its worst days of the past decade.

The Finance Ministry can’t solve the budget issue as KRG’s spending exceeds internal income in Kurdistan. However the true level of internal income is not known as the former KRG cabinets have failed to administer the internal incomes under a unified ministry. The incomes were generated through local governments rather than the Ministry of Finance. Thus, the Minister of Finance doesn’t have access to the true internal income. The only income the ministry has is the local and international sale of oil.

The Finance Ministry is part of the High Council of Oil and Gas in Kurdistan. Thus the minister should be aware of all the revenue from oil exports, which Gorran claims have been hidden from the public by the Natural Resources Ministry. The Ministry of Finance should control incomes at the border points of Ibrahim Khaleel, Haji Omaran, Bashmakh, Parwez Khan and others. In the meantime, the Finance Ministry should have full access to local taxes paid to the government. More importantly, the Finance Ministry should reconsider the tax policy, especially when it comes to deal with large corporations and local and foreign companies exempted from tax. All these are a challenge for the Gorran Minister as changes may be in the interest of the public, but may harm the KDP and PUK interests; a sure way to hinder the reforms. Therefore, Gorran may focus on a policy to avoid creating losers and eventually reverse the transformations.

All Kurdish political parties must agree on a national project to instigate reforms and changes as so far they have only agreed on a united government not a reform package. Gorran needs to work hard on convincing all parties of a reform package otherwise claims of reform will wither and die.

Twitter @KamalChomani